Eye on Extremism: April 8, 2019

Business Insider: Cash-Rich Islamic State May Have Stashed Up To $300 Million In Hopes Of Fighting On

“Islamic State (IS) has amassed a war chest of as much as several hundred million pounds and continues to exploit a string of revenue streams that are likely to enable the group to finance a covert network in Iraq, Syria and further afield despite the complete physical collapse of its so-called caliphate. IS's reserves of cash are a fraction of what they were at the height of its power in 2015, when the jihadists' control of almost half of Iraq and Syria enabled them to accrue around $6 billion, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Other sources have said their money was derived through taxation, extortion, theft and oil smuggling. Yet the sums now believed to be at the group's disposal mean it will remain a well-funded terrorist organisation for some time to come. Following the fall of IS's last stronghold in eastern Syria, international efforts to squeeze its sources of finance will be stepped up in order to thwart any attempt by the group to support and mobilise cells in the region - where it can reportedly call on 14,000 to 18,000 militants, according to a report from VOA citing U.N. counterterrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov. Some of these loyalists are suspected of being behind recent lethal attacks that left 10 dead in the vicinity of Mosul and Kirkuk.”

Associated Press: US Pulls Forces From Libya As Fighting Approaches Capital

“The United States has temporarily withdrawn some of its forces from Libya due to “security conditions on the ground,” a top military official said Sunday as a Libyan commander’s forces advanced toward the capital of Tripoli and clashed with rival militias. A small contingent of American troops has been in Libya in recent years, helping local forces combat Islamic State and al-Qaida militants, as well as protecting diplomatic facilities. “The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable,” said Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command. “Even with an adjustment of the force, we will continue to remain agile in support of existing U.S. strategy.” He did not provide details on the number of U.S. troops that have been withdrawn or how many remain in the country. Footage circulating online showed two apparent U.S. Navy transport craft maneuvering off a beach in Janzour, east of Tripoli, sending up plumes of spray as American forces were ferried from the shore.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. To Designate Iranian Guard Corps A Foreign Terror Group

“The Trump administration is preparing to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, U.S. officials said, a step that would vastly escalate the American pressure campaign against Tehran but which has divided U.S. officials. The decision, which could be announced as early as Monday following months of deliberation, would mark the first time that an element of a foreign state has been officially designated a terrorist entity. National security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been strong proponents of the move, which is intended to help the U.S. crack down on businesses in Europe and elsewhere controlled by the IRGC, the officials said. But Pentagon officials, including Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have cautioned against the move, several U.S. officials said, fearing it could lead to a backlash against U.S. forces in the region without inflicting the intended damage to the Iranian economy.”

The Belfast Telegraph: Sir Ivor Roberts: As Dissident Republican Threat Resurfaces, We Risk Sleepwalking Back Into An Era Of Communal Strife

“On February 22, 1972, a month on from Bloody Sunday, the first Provisional IRA attack in Britain occurred. A car bomb detonated outside a Parachute Regiment barracks in Aldershot, killing seven civilians. An IRA statement the following day admitted the bombing as a revenge attack for Bloody Sunday, an event that still acts to tarnish the name of the Parachute Regiment. The opinions of politicians in Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland on the conduct of troops on Bloody Sunday triggered fiery headlines in the lead-up to news that criminal proceedings will be brought against one of the soldiers involved. All the while, a 21st century watershed has been reached. The New IRA's admitting of letter bombs sent to Heathrow and London City Airports, Waterloo Station and Glasgow University mark their first clear overtures to a campaign of violence in Britain.”

The New York Post: US-Backed Syrian Fighters Stop ISIS Militants’ Breakout From Detention Facility

“Islamic State militants attempted to break out of a detention facility in northeastern Syria but US-backed Syrian fighters “successfully” restored calm and accounted for all the detainees, activists and the US-led coalition said Saturday. Few details emerged about what transpired a day earlier in the detention facility in the town of Derik, in the Kurdish-administered northeastern Syria. Activists from the Rojava Information Center said local anti-terror forces were deployed Friday around the building and on its roof after the attempted prison break. The activist-run media platform said warplanes flew over the facility. Col. Scott Rawlinson, a coalition spokesman, said all detainees were accounted for after the Syrian Democratic Forces “peacefully” dealt with the incident. He said coalition forces supported the SDF with aerial observation but provided no further details. SDF officials had no immediate comments. The Kurdish-led SDF is holding hundreds of foreign IS militants in facilities around areas they control in northeast Syria. Many more local suspects are detained separately. It was not clear if the attempted break-out was among foreign or local detainees.”

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook, Google In Crosshairs Of New U.K. Policy To Control Tech Giants

“The U.K. government plans to create a regulatory body to force the removal of harmful content from the internet, one of the most far-reaching legislative proposals from a host of countries trying to put a tighter leash on global technology companies. The U.K. proposal, disclosed in a policy paper published early Monday, aims to create a new legal obligation for companies including Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL -0.66% Google to take “reasonable and proportionate” action on a gamut of illegal or potentially harmful content published on their platforms, ranging from terrorist propaganda to cyberbullying and disinformation. The government said the new regulator would be armed with powers to enforce compliance, including potentially the power to issue civil fines for demonstrated failures in some areas. It said that issue would be refined in coming months through consultations on an eventual law.”

United States

The Washington Post: The Twin Hatreds

“This past week, after attacks on two mosques in New Zealand that left 50 dead, the Islamic State appealed for retribution. Calling the shootings an extension of the U.S.-led military campaign against the group in Syria and Iraq, the group’s spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, said they “should wake up those who were fooled and should incite the supporters of the caliphate to avenge their religion.” The faithful cannot stand by, he said, while “Muslims are burned to death and are bombed.” His words were chillingly similar to those of Robert Bowers, the man accused of walking into Shabbat services at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last fall and murdering 11 people. Bowers wrote beforehand that he believed the white race would be eradicated by Jews and Muslims. He obsessed over HIAS, a Jewish social services organization that helps resettle refugees, including Muslims, in the United States. “HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people,” Bowers posted online before the rampage. “I can’t sit by and watch my people be slaughtered.”

Bloomberg: Pompeo Warns Libyan Warlord's Forces To Halt Advance On Tripoli

“The Trump administration issued a stern warning to Libyan militia leader Khalifa Haftar to halt his forces’ advance on Tripoli, sending oil prices to their highest level in more than four months amid mounting supply concerns. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a statement late Sunday that the U.S. was “deeply concerned” about the warlord’s threat to the internationally recognized capital. He said the military campaign was endangering civilians and undermining efforts to resolve the dispute peacefully. “We have made clear that we oppose the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces and urge the immediate halt to these military operations against the Libyan capital,” Pompeo said. “There is no military solution to the Libya conflict.” Bent for June settlement advanced as much as 0.7 percent to $70.86 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, the highest since Nov. 12. Crude prices have continued to climb after their strongest quarter in almost a decade as OPEC and its allies curb output while economic and political crises squeeze supplies from member nations Venezuela and Iran. An escalation of the conflict in Libya, which pumped 1.1 million barrels of crude a day last month, risks creating a supply shortfall.”

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Removes Troops From Libya Amid Fighting In Capital

“The U.S. military said it pulled a small contingent of American forces from Libya as the country teetered on the brink of full-scale civil war, with fighting continuing around the capital Tripoli. The evacuation is the latest turn in a troubled history of American military involvement in Libya, which has been in turmoil since the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in an armed uprising supported by North Atlantic Treaty Organization airstrikes in 2011. U.S. forces have also played a key role in uprooting Islamic State, which gained a foothold in Libya in the chaos that ensued after the Arab Spring. Citing the ability of U.S. forces to “flex where required” in Libya, Col. Christopher Karns, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, confirmed the departure from Tripoli. “Security conditions in pockets of the country have declined,” Mr. Karns said, declining to provide details on where the contingent is headed. “It is important various terror affiliated groups, such as ISIS, don’t have an exact map of our whereabouts,” he said, referring to Islamic State.”

The Wall Street Journal: Why America Needs New Alliances

“President Trump is often accused of creating a needless rift with America’s European allies. The secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Jens Stoltenberg, expressed a different view Thursday when he told a joint session of Congress: “Allies must spend more on defense—this has been the clear message from President Trump, and this message is having a real impact.” Mr. Stoltenberg’s remarks reflect a growing recognition that strategic and economic realities demand a drastic change in the way the U.S. conducts foreign policy. The unwanted cracks in the Atlantic alliance are primarily a consequence of European leaders, especially in Germany and France, wishing to continue living in a world that no longer exists. The U.S. cannot serve as the enforcer for the Europeans’ beloved “rules-based international order” any more. Even in the 1990s, it was doubtful the U.S. could indefinitely guarantee the security of all nations, paying for George H.W. Bush’s “new world order” principally with American soldiers’ lives and American taxpayers’ dollars.”

Syria

Reuters: Starved Infants, Wounded Women Crowd Syrian Hospitals After Islamic State Defeat

“The paramedics’ log at al-Hol camp in eastern Syria lists the injuries and ailments of infants rushed from the battlefield to its crowded, dirty clinic: malnourishment, stunted growth, broken leg. Those in critical need – mostly emaciated babies born in war to the wives of dead Islamic State militants – are taken to the nearest hospital, a bumpy two-hour drive away. Other people cram into a waiting room with a tin roof in a growing queue for basic medical treatment. At the hospital, staff have had to build two portacabins on the roof that serve as a makeshift ward for the treatment of malnourished babies, crammed sometimes two or three to a cot. Lower floors are filled with teenagers missing limbs and women with shrapnel and bullet wounds. The exodus during intense fighting of more than 60,000 people from Islamic State’s final redoubt of Baghouz is overwhelming medical staff in eastern Syria who struggle to cope at the camp and ill-equipped hospitals. Scores of people, mostly children, have died on the 150-mile (240-kilometer) journey to al-Hol or soon after arriving, aid groups say.  “My son has a dislocated hip. He needs an operation urgently,” said Umm Mohammed, a veiled 33-year-old woman holding an expressionless six-month-old boy at the camp.”

Al Arabiya: US Envoy To Syria: ‘We Have Not Said That The ISIS Story Has Ended’

“Joel Rayburn, Deputy Assistant Secretary and Special Envoy for Syria, US Department of State, speaking about the ISIS in Syria said: “We have said that the US-led coalition… had been successful in destroying the physical caliphate of Daesh (ISIS).” Rayburn added: “But we haven’t said that that’s the end of the story with respect to Daesh (ISIS). There has to be a stabilization phase for the territories that have been liberated from ISIS.” “This conflict has to be solved politically, there is no military solution that’s coming.” Rayburn was speaking during a panel discussion moderated by Al Arabiya’s Rima Maktabi at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which kicked off Saturday in Jordan’s Dead Sea region. Others on the panel included Seyed Salih Al-Hakim, Director, Al-Kalima Center for Dialogue and Cooperation; Leena Al Olaimy, Co-Founder and Managing Director, 3 BL Associates; Ghassan Hasbani, Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon; and Alain Bejjani, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Holding. “It’s for the Syrian people to decide their own leadership, their own government,” Rayburn said during the session.”

Haaretz: At Least 15 Killed As Syrian Regime And Rebels Exchange Fire

“The escalation is part of an attempt by the Syrian government to take back Syria's northwest, the last major foothold of insurgents. At least 15 people were reported killed on Sunday in shelling by government and insurgent forces in northwestern Syria, further straining a Russian-Turkish cease-fire deal for the region.  The northwest is the last major foothold of insurgents opposed to President Bashar Assad, many of whom were forced to retreat there after military defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces backed by Iran and Russia. Last year, Damascus was poised to mount an offensive into the northwest, raising fears of a humanitarian catastrophe. The assault was postponed after Moscow struck a deal with Ankara that included the creation of a "demilitarised zone". But the agreement has come under strain in recent weeks: the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 45 people had been killed in the last five days alone, most of them by government shelling of rebel-held areas.”

The Jerusalem Post: Washington Is Still Thinking About A New Border Force In Syria

“The US is still trying to thread the needle between its alliance with Turkey and its partners in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in eastern Syria.  The hope is that a border force or “safe zone” can reduce tensions after the defeat of Islamic State. Since the US announced its withdrawal from Syria in December last year and then reversed that decision, Washington and Ankara have been discussing what comes next in eastern Syria, where the US has been working with Kurdish and Arab fighters to defeat ISIS. Jared Szuba, of The Defense Post news site, spoke to Aldar Xelil, a diplomatic relations official from the Movement for a Democratic Society. Xelil’s views reflect the larger thinking of the SDF and Kurdish forces in eastern Syria. The US-led coalition and the SDF declared the defeat of ISIS in its last “caliphate” foothold in the Euphrates Valley in late March. The defeat came three months after US President Donald Trump announced that the US was withdrawing from Syria, which cast a huge question mark over what comes next in the region. With the support of the US and the coalition, the SDF liberated a huge swath of Syria from ISIS. But this has also increased tensions with Turkey.”

The New York Post: US-Backed Syrian Fighters Stop ISIS Militants’ Breakout From Detention Facility

“Islamic State militants attempted to break out of a detention facility in northeastern Syria but US-backed Syrian fighters “successfully” restored calm and accounted for all the detainees, activists and the US-led coalition said Saturday. Few details emerged about what transpired a day earlier in the detention facility in the town of Derik, in the Kurdish-administered northeastern Syria. Activists from the Rojava Information Center said local anti-terror forces were deployed Friday around the building and on its roof after the attempted prison break. The activist-run media platform said warplanes flew over the facility. Col. Scott Rawlinson, a coalition spokesman, said all detainees were accounted for after the Syrian Democratic Forces “peacefully” dealt with the incident. He said coalition forces supported the SDF with aerial observation but provided no further details.”

Iran

Voice Of America: Iran's Leader Urges Iraq To Demand US Withdraw Troops

“Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called on Iraq to demand U.S. troops leave "as soon as possible", warning that Washington is plotting to remove the Iraqi government. The remarks came during a visit to Tehran on Saturday by Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, whose country is under pressure from the United States to distance itself from Iran. "You should take actions to make sure the Americans withdraw their troops from Iraq as soon as possible because wherever they have had an enduring presence, forcing them out has become problematic," Khamenei told Abdel Mahdi. "The current government and parliament in Iraq and the political figures are not what the U.S. desires; they plot to remove them from the political scene of Iraq," he said, according to his official website. Abdel Mahdi, on his first official trip to Iran, also met Saturday with President Hassan Rouhani, who visited Iraq last month.”

Iraq

Kurdistan 24: Iraqi Court Sentences Alleged ISIS Lawyer To Death

“Iraq’s Nineveh Criminal Court on Sunday sentenced a man who reportedly worked as a lawyer for the Islamic State following the emergence of the jihadist group in Iraq and Syria in 2014. The person held a prominent position within the group’s hierarchy, according to a statement released by the Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq. The convicted man confessed during his trial to having pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and receiving orders and instructions from the jihadist group’s leadership while he was in Syria’s Hajin area. The statement mentioned he was responsible for identifying prominent figures in Nineveh for the Islamic State and threatening them of murder. The sentence was handed down in accordance with the provisions of Article IV of the anti-terrorism law. Human rights groups have long criticized inconsistencies in the Iraqi judicial process and the preponderance of flawed trials. The Islamic State emerged in Iraq in 2014 and quickly occupied vast swaths of territory in the country. In late 2017, Iraq declared final victory against it, but the extremist group continues to launch insurgency attacks, ambushes, and kidnappings across the country.”

Xinhua: Iraqi Forces Capture IS Militants In Operations In Eastern Iraq

“Iraqi forces on Sunday dismantled three Islamic State (IS) sleeper cells and arrested a number of IS militants, including a prominent group leader, in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, a provincial security source said. Diyala's intelligence service, backed by the Iraqi army and police, conducted operations to hunt down IS militants in separate areas of the province, Sadiq al-Husseini, head of the security committee of the provincial council, told Xinhua. The troops arrested a number of the extremist militants, including a prominent group leader said to be "the head of the snake" in the province, al-Husseini said. The security forces believe that the prominent leader is a close aide to IS top leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to al-Husseini, who refused to give further details for security reasons. Also in the province, a force from the intelligence service ambushed and arrested three IS leaders at a rural area near the village of Mkheisa in northeast of the provincial capital Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, al-Husseini said. The three leaders are "very dangerous and very important for the structure of the terrorist organization of the province," he said without disclosing their names or nationalities.”

Xinhua: Prominent IS Leader Killed In Western Iraq

“Iraqi security forces on Saturday killed a prominent Islamic State (IS) leader in the western province of Anbar, the provincial police chief said. The IS leader, identified as Sulaiman Ahmed Mudhein, was killed in an operation carried out by a joint force from Anbar's Operations Command and provincial police commandos in a desert area near al-Razaza Lake in the southwest of the provincial capital Ramadi, located some 110 km west of Baghdad, Hadi Erzeij told Xinhua. "The terrorist ... is the administrative leader of the IS group camps in Anbar Province, and was responsible for many terrorist attacks in the province during the past years," Erzeij said. IS militants are still active in the vast Anbar desert which stretches to the border with neighboring countries of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as many civilians have been kidnapped or killed by the extremist group recently. The security situation in Iraq has been dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces declared full defeat of the IS across the country late in 2017. However, IS remnants have since melted or regrouped in cities or fled to desert and rugged areas, carrying out attacks against the security forces and civilians despite operations from time to time to hunt them down.”

Afghanistan

The Washington Post: Afghan Officials: Taliban Attacks Kill 7 Police

“Insurgents killed seven policemen and three civilians in attacks across Afghanistan on Saturday, provincial officials said. Such attacks, blamed on the Taliban, have continued in recent months, even as the militants hold talks with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to negotiate an American troop withdrawal. In a visit to Kabul earlier this week, Khalilzad lobbied for “intra-Afghan dialogue” — talks that would encompass prominent Afghan figures, government representatives and the opposition, as well as the Taliban. The U.S. envoy has held several rounds of talks with the Taliban, most recently last month in Qatar where both sides said progress was made. But despite such talks, the Taliban continue to attack Afghan forces. The insurgents, who control half the country, refuse to talk directly with the government in Kabul, considering it a U.S. puppet. In eastern Ghazni province on Saturday, Taliban killed three policemen and wounded seven others in attacks on security checkpoints, said a spokesman for the provincial police chief, Ahmad Khan Serat. The group claimed responsibility. In the northern Sari Pul province, at least four policemen were killed when Taliban stormed a security checkpoint, a provincial official said.”

The New York Times: Afghans Name Council To Ease Logjam On Talks With Taliban

“In a sign that a logjam in Afghanistan over entering peace talks with the Taliban could be easing, the Afghan government announced Sunday that it had named a council of senior political leaders who will appoint negotiators, create their mandate for talks and oversee their work. The formation of the council — led by President Ashraf Ghani and composed of both current and former senior government officials and leaders of political parties and opposition groups — comes after months of bitter disagreements over the next steps for peace talks with the Taliban. So far, negotiations have occurred only between the insurgents and American diplomats, without the Afghan government, an impasse that American officials have struggled to break. The two sides are near an agreement on the withdrawal of American troops and on a Taliban pledge that Afghan soil not be used by terrorist groups to attack the United States and its allies, as Al Qaeda did in September 2001. But the United States has insisted that nothing can be finalized until the Taliban and the Afghans figure out the country’s political future. The Taliban have refused to meet directly with representatives of the Afghan government, calling it a puppet of the United States.”

Arab News: Double Blast Kills Three People, Injures 20 In East Afghanistan

“Twin explosions on Saturday in the eastern Afghanistan city of Jalalabad killed three people and injured 20 others, local officials said. One child and two women were killed, said Mohammad Shoieb Sahak, deputy head of Nangarhar Regional Hospital. Eight security forces were among the casualties, said Ataullah Khogyani, spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial government. “In today’s incident, my sister and her daughters have been victims,” said Sami Ul Haq, a resident of Nangarhar, visiting his family at the hospital. One of his nieces was killed and the other wounded, along with her mother, in the attack, he said. “It is such a misery.” It was not clear what caused the explosions. No group took immediate responsibility. Islamic State emerged in Nangarhar in 2015 on the porous border with Pakistan to become one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous militant groups for its bombing and complex attacks. Fighting between militant groups, and between the Taliban and Afghan forces has intensified in recent weeks amid recurring peace talks. Meanwhile, an Afghan official says Taliban have killed at least four policemen when they stormed a security checkpoint in northern Sari Pul province.”

Pakistan

Reuters: Pakistan Says It Has Intelligence Of New Indian Attack This Month

“Pakistan has “reliable intelligence” that India will attack again this month, its foreign minister said, drawing condemnation from New Delhi which described the claim as irresponsible.  Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s comments came after tensions over a February standoff between the arch enemies had appeared to ease.  He said on Sunday that an attack could take place between April 16 and 20, adding that Pakistan had told the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council of its concerns. “India rejects the irresponsible and preposterous statement by the foreign minister of Pakistan with a clear objective of whipping up war hysteria in the region,” a spokesman for India’s foreign office said in a statement. “This public gimmick appears to be a call to Pakistan-based terrorists to undertake a terror attack in India.” The foreign office said India reserved the right to respond firmly and decisively to any cross border militant attack, accusing Pakistan of being complicit in such attacks on India. A suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on Feb. 14. The risk of conflict rose dramatically on Feb. 27, when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base inside Pakistan.”

Yemen

Al Arabiya: Arab Coalition Intercepts Drone Launched By Houthis Toward Asir Region

“The Arab Coalition in Yemen intercepted and destroyed a drone launched by the Iranian-aligned Houthi militias toward Asir city in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Press Agency said late on Sunday. No injuries or damage were reported, SPA added. The official spokesman of the coalition, Colonel Turki Al-Malki, stated that at 20:50 local time on Sunday (17:50 GMT), the Saudi Royal Air Defense Systems detected an unidentified object headed toward civilian properties in Asir, and dealt with the target “according to rules of engagement”. Al-Malki added that the continuous attempts by the Iran-backed Houthi militias to target civilians through UAVs and remote-controlled explosive speedboats “seeks to provoke coalition forces into conducting military operations in Hodeidah”, SPA reported. “The Joint Forces Command would take all deterrent measures in accordance with international humanitarian law and its customary rules,” he said.”

The Jerusalem Post: Houthis Undermine Yemen’s Present And Sabotage Its Future

“The tolerance shown by some actors in the international community towards the Houthis militias in Yemen reflects a lack of deep understanding and awareness of the nature of the dilemma that the Yemenis suffer by this ideological militia. In the sense that, this is not just a bloody, sectarian and racial coup by Iranian-backed militia against the state and its institutions, rather, it is most serious, where the militia, besides the aggressive and cruel war against Yemenis, is waging another brutal war against all coexistence, equality and civil values in a systematic way, using state institutions and potentials that they seized by force and intimidation. Apparently, the international community is not aware of this serious war against Yemen humanitarian identity and against coexistence, equality, and civic values. Houthis manipulate educational institutions in creating a bloody ideological army, whose creed is centered around “death”, within a process of continuous provocative discourse at schools, universities, and mosques, as well as provocative discourse at local radio, TV stations and social media.”

Xinhua: UAE-Backed Yemeni Security Forces Raid Al-Qaida Hideouts In South Yemen

“Yemeni security forces carried out on Sunday an anti-terror operation against hideouts of the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the southern province of Abyan, a security official told Xinhua. The local source based in Abyan said on condition of anonymity that newly-recruited security forces backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched a large anti-terror military campaign to clear a number of mountains and valleys located in the Mahfad town, a key previous hideout of AQAP militants. The anti-terror campaign aimed at "capturing a number of terrorist elements and limiting the movement of other local armed groups that support the existence of AQAP militants and provide them with weapons in that areas," he said. He added that the UAE-backed Yemeni security forces succeeded in seizing arms and ammunition, including hand grenades, improvised explosive devices and communication equipment inside the mountainous hideouts of the al-Qaida militants who fled to other areas. The Yemen-based AQAP network mostly operating in eastern and southern provinces has been responsible for many attacks against the security forces in the country. Provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, former main strongholds of AQAP, have been the scene of sporadic attacks or heavy clashes between UAE-backed security forces and al-Qaida militants from time to time.”

Associated Press: Yemeni Officials: Blast In Capital Kills 13

“A large explosion at a warehouse in Yemen’s rebel-held capital on Sunday killed at least 13 people, including seven children, and wounded more than 100, local medical officials said. The Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who seized control of the capital in 2014, said the Saudi-led coalition had targeted the warehouse with an airstrike. The coalition denied carrying out any strikes in the area. The state-run news agency in Aden, aligned with the internationally-recognized government, said the rebels stored weapons at the warehouse. The health officials said more than 110 people were wounded in the explosion, which damaged nearby schools. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief media.”

Qatar

The National: Qatar 'Spent Huge Sums On Muslim Brotherhood Groups In Europe'

“Details of the lavish payments made by Qatar to Muslim Brotherhood organisations in Europe, including furnishing funds the academic Tariq Ramadan has used for legal fees to fight rape allegations, have emerged in a new book. Qatar Papers - How the emirate finances Islam in France and Europe, written by two French journalists, publishes evidence that cheques and money transfers from Qatar have been used to underwrite more than 140 projects around Europe, where the Muslim Brotherhood has sought to expand its influence. The book also documents payments of €72 million (Dh296m) to groups in seven European countries. In just one region of France, the payments have totalled €4.6m, including €3m for the Averroes de Lille high school. Several staff at the school were linked to Muslim community bodies that also attracted Qatari support.”

Saudi Arabia

Asharq Al-Awsat: Saudi Arabia Urges Security Council To Halt Houthi Terrorism

“Saudi Arabia has called on the United Nations Security Council to take urgent measures to confront the terrorist and hostile violations by the Iran-supported Houthi militias in Yemen. The latest of these violations took place on Tuesday when the Houthis targeted residential regions in Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait with drones that were downed by air defenses. Shrapnel from the destroyed aircraft fell over residential areas, leaving five civilians wounded, including a woman and child. The Kingdom’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Abdullah al-Mouallimi addressed this issue with Security Council president for April, German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen. A copy of his letter was sent to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. He briefed them on the April 2 attack in which the Saudi defenses intercepted and destroyed the Houthi drones. He warned that the Houthis continue to target civilians through drones and explosives-laden boats. They also continue to launch attacks from Yemen’s Hodeidah province at a time when the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen is abiding by the ceasefire there as agreed upon in the 2018 Stockholm agreement.”

Al Arabiya: Two Terrorists Killed In An Attack On A Checkpoint In Eastern Saudi Arabia

“Saudi security forces have carried out an operation in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province which resulted in the death of two wanted suspects and the arrest of two others. The four attempted to evade a security checkpoint near Abu Hadriyah in al-Qatif on their way from escaping outside the country, Al Arabiya’s correspondent reports. Out of the four men, three were on Saudi Arabia’s wanted list of terrorists.”

Lebanon

Al Jazeera: Threat Of US Sanctions Looms Over Lebanon's Hezbollah Allies

Barely a fortnight after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Lebanon and threatened Hezbollah's political allies to contain the group or face US sanctions, some of them have flown to Washington, DC, to lobby against them and assuage US concerns. Officially, however, the Lebanese delegation is travelling to attend the 2019 Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. While in Lebanon, Pompeo had said that the US is inclined to sanction political "individuals" linked to Hezbollah to curtail the group's military and political growth and in effect the influence of its patron, Iran, in the region. Hanin Ghaddar, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Al Jazeera that, according to her sources, Pompeo warned President Michel Aoun of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Speaker Nabih Berri of the Amal movement, with personal sanctions. "I checked with people who were present at the dinner organised for Pompeo. They confirmed to me that he told both Aoun and Berri that they would be sanctioned unless they pull the reins on Hezbollah," Ghaddar said. May Chidiac, the new minister of state for administrative development and a representative of the Christian Lebanese Forces Party, which is seen to be close to the US, said that while she is not privy to the details of one-on-one meetings between the leaders, Pompeo's message was clear.”

The National: Hezbollah launches crowdfunding to make up missing millions

“Under pressure from escalating American-led sanctions, Hezbollah is aiming to pocket millions of dollars a month by soliciting money directly from its supporters in Lebanon and abroad. Offerings of gold, symbolic donations by children and poetry-reading fundraisers have all been promoted by the wide network of traditional and social media outlets that support Hezbollah, an organisation blacklisted by numerous countries, including the United States, UK and Gulf states, as a terrorist group. One recently unveiled fundraising drive, dubbed the “Campaign of Millions to Support the Islamic Resistance” touts a simple arithmetic for filling Hezbollah’s shrinking coffers. A propaganda video released on March 19 argues that if there are at least 500,000 Hezbollah partisans willing to support the party with $4 a month (Dh 15), then Hezbollah would raise $2 million (Dh 7.3 million) a month from individual donations. “Come buy victory for a dollar,” exhorts the video, which was first published by a group called “Awaiting Him” on the encrypted messaging application Telegram. The Hezbollah-affiliated social media channel also provides contact numbers for people seeking to donate to Hezbollah’s Islamic Resistance Support Organisation (IRSO), including a number for “international relations.” 

Egypt

Egypt Independent: Two Policemen Killed During Attack At Security Patrol North Of Cairo

“Two policemen have been killed Sunday morning during an armed attack on a patrol inspecting the al-Nozha al-Gedida area, north of Cairo. Authorities moved to the scene of the incident, as prosecution was notified to begin investigations into the attack and its motives. A security statement said that gunmen were seen riding a car as they shot at the patrol, killing Major Majed Abdel Razek, a Criminal Investigations policeman at al-Nozha police station and a lower ranking police officer who was driving the patrol vehicle. Two other security personnel were injured during the attack. Mobile security checkpoints have been deployed in the vicinity of the incident, and at the entrances and exits of Cairo to arrest the suspects before they could escape. Prosecutors at the scene seized the surveillance cameras to use its footage for their investigations.”

Libya

Reuters: Eastern Libyan forces conduct air strikes on Tripoli as U.N. fails to reach truce

“Eastern Libyan forces carried out air strikes on the southern part of Tripoli on Sunday and made progress toward the city center, residents said, escalating an operation to take the capital as the United Nations failed to achieve a truce. The Libyan National Army (LNA) force of Khalifa Haftar, which backs a parallel administration in the east, last week launched an advance on Tripoli in the west, home to the internationally recognized government.  The offensive intensifies a power struggle that has fractured the oil and gas producer since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. The LNA reached the southern outskirts of the capital on Friday and says it took the former international airport, though the Tripoli military officials deny this. At least one warplane carried out an air strike in the area, a resident said. “The air force took part for the first time in the military operations,” said LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari. “It conducted a very successful operation to secure the airport road (to city center),” he added. The LNA moved up north from on the road from former airport in the district of Khalat Furgan, coming some 11 km from the city center, a resident said, adding he could see the troops as forces loyal to the Tripoli government withdrew.”

Military Times: US Withdraws Troops From Libya Amid Rival Militias Fighting Near Capital

“The United States said Sunday it has temporarily withdrawn some of its forces from Libya due to “security conditions on the ground,” as a Libyan military commander’s forces advanced toward the capital, Tripoli, clashing with rival militias. A small contingent of American troops has been in Libya in recent years helping local forces combat Islamic State and al-Qaida militants, as well as protecting diplomatic facilities. "The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable," said Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command. "Even with an adjustment of the force, we will continue to remain agile in support of existing U.S. strategy." He did not provide details on the number of U.S. troops that have been withdrawn or on how many remain inside the country. Footage circulating online showed two apparent U.S. Navy transport craft maneuvering off a beach in Janzour, east of Tripoli, sending up plumes of spray as American forces were ferried from the shore. India also evacuated a small contingent of peacekeepers. The Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, said the country’s 15 Central Reserve Police Force peacekeepers were evacuated Saturday from Tripoli because the “situation in Libya has suddenly worsened” and fighting has moved into the capital city.”

Nigeria

The Defense Post: Nigeria: Three Killed In Twin Suicide Bomb Attack In Maiduguri

“Three people were killed and more than 30 were injured in a twin suicide bomb attack in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, militia sources and residents told AFP on Sunday. Two female bombers on Saturday, April 7 detonated their explosives among a crowd in Muna Dalti on the outskirts of Borno state capital Maiduguri, the birthplace of the Boko Haram jihadist group. “They came around 8:00 pm and detonated their suicide vests,” Umar Ari, a local militia leader, said. “They killed three people and seriously injured 33 others,” said Ari, who was involved in the evacuation of victims. Two members of the Civilian Joint Task Force militia and a civilian were killed, according to Bello Dambatta, the Head of the Rapid Response Team of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency, Channels TV reported. Residents gathered Sunday morning for the funeral of the three victims. The scene of the bombings, a popular night time venue for residents, has been repeatedly targeted by Boko Haram suicide attacks, said resident Gremah Umar. The area houses a sprawling camp for thousands of people displaced by violence.”

The Nation: 112 Chibok Girls Now Five Years In Boko Haram Captivity

“The 112 Chibok girls still being held by Boko Haram will   have spent five years in captivity if they are not released by next Sunday. Over 200 students of the Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State were abducted by the terrorists on the night of April 14, 2014. Over a hundred of them were released following pressure from the federal government, and the intervention of well meaning Nigerians and the International Red Cross. The Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement said yesterday that the girls have already spent 1, 819 days in Boko Haram captivity. It said the anniversary of their abduction next Sunday would only bring sadness. “Sadly, we are coming up to five years in captivity for 112 of our Chibok Girls,” the BBOG said on its Whatsapp platform yesterday. “This is not a date we ever imagined we would come to. “However, should it come without their return, we intend to organize a few activities to ensure that the Chibok Girls are not forgotten.”

Voice Of America: Boko Haram Militants Target Civilians In Niger’s Diffa Region

“The United Nations reports armed men killed dozens of civilians and displaced thousands during increasingly violent and frequent attacks last month in the Diffa region in southeastern Niger. The Diffa region, which borders Nigeria and Chad, is home to more than 200,000 internally displaced people and refugees victimized by the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria. U.N. officials say the spike in violence and displacement is related to increased activity by Boko Haram or Boko Haram-affiliated armed groups in the Lake Chad Basin. They report 88 civilians were killed last month alone, compared to a total of 107 civilian deaths during all of 2018.  Spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Jens Laerke told VOA the dramatic jump in the number of attacks and civilian deaths seems to indicate a shift in tactics by these armed groups. He said very vulnerable civilians appear to be deliberately targeted. “So, it is not only armed men fighting armed men. It is also armed men fighting civilians, families, women and children. So, that is, of course, very disturbing. Some of those who have been targeted in these attacks in March were already displaced people and some were already refugees,” Laerke said.”

The Defense Post: Nigeria: Three Killed In Twin Suicide Bomb Attack In Maiduguri

“Three people were killed and more than 30 were injured in a twin suicide bomb attack in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, militia sources and residents told AFP on Sunday. Two female bombers on Saturday, April 7 detonated their explosives among a crowd in Muna Dalti on the outskirts of Borno state capital Maiduguri, the birthplace of the Boko Haram jihadist group. “They came around 8:00 pm and detonated their suicide vests,” Umar Ari, a local militia leader, said. “They killed three people and seriously injured 33 others,” said Ari, who was involved in the evacuation of victims. Two members of the Civilian Joint Task Force militia and a civilian were killed, according to Bello Dambatta, the Head of the Rapid Response Team of the Borno State Emergency Management Agency, Channels TV reported.”

Somalia

Xinhua: Somali Forces Arrest Senior Al-Shabab Bomb Expert In Mogadishu

“Somali security forces said Saturday they are interrogating a senior al-Shabab commander in charge of explosive devices after the arrest in an operation conducted in the restive Mogadishu city on Friday evening. The ministry of information said the National Security and Intelligence Agency nabbed the senior al-Shabab operative who is responsible for fitting improvised explosive devices into vehicles. "Security forces have arrested a terrorist operative during a major security swoop conducted in Mogadishu on the 5th of April, 2019. The terrorist operative used to plant bombs underneath the vehicle," said the ministry. The arrest came after the government said preparations are underway for the Somali army's major operation in the country with most parts of terrorist stronghold territories being brought back under the control of the government. The ministry said the heavy security operation will focus on Shabelle regions in central and southern Somalia to flush out the al-Qaida allied terrorist group which is fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government. The latest operation came barely a week after another al-Shabab commander was arrested during a security aid at Ugunji village in Lower Shabelle.”

The New York Times: U.S. Acknowledges Airstrike In Somalia Caused Civilian Deaths

“After denying allegations last month that United States airstrikes had killed civilians in Somalia, the American military said on Friday that an April 2018 attack left two people dead. The announcement comes after Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the head of Africa Command, ordered a review of all airstrikes conducted in Somalia since 2017. The internal assessment was prompted by pressure from lawmakers and an Amnesty International report released last month that found evidence of  five  strikes in Somalia that had killed more than a dozen civilians. The two civilians were killed in an April 2018 airstrike against the Islamist extremist group Shabab near El Buur, a town in central Somalia. In a statement on Friday, Africa Command said it “found credible evidence” of the deaths shortly after the strike, but the casualties were not reported to senior officials until last week. The airstrike was not mentioned in the Amnesty report. “Because of the reporting error, U.S. Africa Command was not informed of the assessment’s conclusion — and subsequently the information was not reported to external authorities, such as the host nation and Congress,” the military statement said.”

United Kingdom

The New York Times: Britain Proposes Broad New Powers To Regulate Internet Content

“Britain proposed sweeping new government powers to regulate the internet to combat the spread of violent and extremist content, false information and harmful material aimed at children. The proposal, announced on Monday, would be one of the world’s most aggressive actions to rein in the most corrosive online content. The recommendations, backed by Prime Minister Theresa May, take direct aim at Facebook, Google and other large internet platforms that policymakers believe have made growth and profits a priority over curbing harmful material. The government called for naming an internet regulator with the power to issue fines, block access to websites if necessary and make individual executives legally liable for harmful content spread on their platforms. “The internet can be brilliant at connecting people across the world, but for too long these companies have not done enough to protect users, especially children and young people, from harmful content,” Ms. May said in a statement. “That is not good enough, and it is time to do things differently.”

The Guardian: UK under pressure to return children of ISIS mothers

“Lawyers for Shamima Begum, the teenager who left the UK to join Islamic State, are attempting to bring at least three British children born to fighters for the group to the UK, a move that will intensify scrutiny of the British government’s apparent reluctance to repatriate minors from Syria. The children, all of whom have British mothers, and one of whom was born in the UK, have been identified in a Syrian refugee camp. Begum, who was heavily pregnant when, in February, she made her plea to be allowed to return to Britain, gave birth to a boy in a refugee camp in northern Syria just days before the Home Office stripped her of her British citizenship. Her son died from pneumonia less than three weeks later. Tasnime Akunjee, Begum’s lawyer, pointed to moves made by other countries to retrieve the children of Isis fighters. “We have a legal facade saying that there is nothing we can do – yet other countries are repatriating children,” he told the Observer. On Friday, Germany announced that it had brought home several children of Isis militants from Iraq. France has decided to repatriate five orphaned children of Isis supporters and has introduced a case-by-case approach to the return of other minors.”

The Guardian: Far-Right Terrorists Are One Step Ahead Of You In UK, Police Told

“The UK’s police and security services remain dangerously ill-equipped to identify and counter the long-term terrorism threat from a new wave of far-right politics, according to researchers who helped head off a plot to assassinate a Labour MP. The anti-racism charity Hope not Hate was instrumental in foiling a plan to murder the West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper. The legal case at the centre of this plot came to a conclusion on Tuesday. Senior security figures including the head of MI5, Andrew Parker; the head of UK counter-terrorism policing, Neil Basu; and the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, have warned that the far-right threat is growing rapidly. But Hope Not Hate (HNH), whose mole Robbie Mullen exposed the plot to kill Cooper after he turned against the banned neo-Nazi group National Action (NA), said the security services and police were failing to keep up with potential terrorists.”

Germany

The Jerusalem Post: Germany To End Funding Of Extreme Pro-Iran-Regime Group After Media Exposés

“Germany’s government will pull the plug at the end of 2019 on public funding for a radical pro-Iranian-regime organization- the Islamic Community of Shi'ite Communities of Germany - that is packed with antisemitic representatives who urge the destruction of Israel. After a series of exposés in Germany’s top selling paper Bild, the newspaper reported on Thursday that the interior ministry announced in a letter the stoppage of funds for the Shi'ite umbrella organization. Institutions in Hamburg that are controlled by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei fall under the rubric of the organization. The Free Democratic Party blasted the government for failing to earlier stop the funding of the Shi'ite association and for being “clueless about Islamism” in connection with the Iranian clerical regime. Germany’s intelligence agency classifies the Islamic Center in Hamburg - a member of the Shiite organization - as an “instrument” of Khamenei in the federal republic. The association is funded by Germany’s family ministry and the European Union.  The German federal government declared the Shi'ite umbrella organization to be “influenced by extremists.” The Bild wrote that Germany's decision “comes around $426,037 too late” in 2019.”

Europe

The Belfast Telegraph: Ex-Diplomat Fears Return Of IRA Violence

“A former UK ambassador to Dublin fears a return to IRA violence across the UK if devolution is not restored. Former diplomat Sir Ivor Roberts (72) - who served from 1999 to 2003 as Ambassador to Ireland - also hit out at 'tone-deaf' comments from what he called the "Westminster Establishment" which were raising the political temperature in Northern Ireland. Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Sir Ivor said a recent republican car bomb in Londonderry and letter bombs sent to cities in the UK were warnings of a deteriorating situation. "The New IRA's admitting of letter bombs sent to Heathrow and London City airports, Waterloo Station and Glasgow University mark their first clear overtures to a campaign of violence on the British mainland," he writes. "The history of Northern Ireland shows that a few violent men and women can light a fire that engulfs a province. "If we hope to keep a lid on violence in Northern Ireland - violence that is already spilling over to Britain - real political engagement between Sinn Fein and other Northern Ireland parties in a restored Stormont is needed now more than ever.”

The Washington Post: A Path Back From The Ruins Of ISIS

“The families know how to find her. Sevil Novruzova has brought back sons from what was once the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate. She has retrieved grandchildren from Iraqi prisons, jailed for being with the militants. Novruzova has flown last-minute to Turkey, hoping to discourage daughters from traveling farther to reach the Islamic State lines. For the 42-year-old lawyer from Russia’s mostly Muslim Dagestan region, it usually begins with a message asking for help to bring back a relative. For years, she has lived and breathed the crumbling Islamic State, whose last stronghold in Syria was seized by U.S.-backed forces in March. On her watch, she has helped return at least 120 people from the caliphate. Her work — in a corner of Russia’s Caucasus region — represents just a tiny fraction of the fighters, families and others who made their way to Islamic State territory in recent years. But Novruzova’s efforts stand in sharp contrast to the political indecision in the West over whether to repatriate citizens who sided with the Islamic State. Her outreach is even more remarkable for the shift it reflects in President Vladi­mir Putin’s Russia.”

Southeast Asia

The Washington Post: 3 hostages escape Muslim militants in Philippines, 1 drowns

“Three hostages held by Muslim militants in the southern Philippines have made a daring escape that left one drowned, another shot in the back in critical condition and another safe after swimming to his freedom, officials said. The two Indonesians and one Malaysian separately escaped while Philippine marines were attempting to rescue them on Simusa island in southern Sulu province over the last two days, regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Gerry Besana said Saturday. The dramatic escapes leave at least three more hostages in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, which is blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization due to its brutal history of bombings, ransom kidnappings, extortion and beheadings. The remaining captives include a Dutch bird watcher, Elwold Horn, who was kidnapped by the militants in 2012, and two Filipinos. One of the Indonesians, Heri Ardiansyah, was plucked from the waters by marines on board a gunboat while they recovered the body of his companion, Hariadin, who drowned. The marines gunned down three Abu Sayyaf captors who were trying to chase the two Indonesians at sea, military officials said. Like many Indonesians, Hariadin used just one name.”

Technology

Bloomberg: U.K. Will Fine Facebook, Tech Companies If They Host Terrorist Content

“Technology firms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter face “substantial” fines or a U.K. ban under a new law if they don’t act swiftly enough to remove content that encourages terrorism and child sexual exploitation and abuse. The companies’ directors could also be held personally liable if illegal content is not taken down within a short and pre-determined time-frame, the Home Office said. The exact level of fines will be examined during a 12 week consultation following the legislation’s launch on Monday. The spread of fake news and interference in elections will also be tackled. The need for a new law over a voluntary code has been highlighted by the terrorist attack in New Zealand last month in which 50 Muslims were killed while footage was live-streamed online. In the U.K., the case of 14-year-old Molly Russell has also focused minds. According to her father, the teenager killed herself in 2017 after viewing self-harm and suicide content online. “Put simply, the tech companies have not done enough to protect their users and stop this shocking content from appearing in the first place,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement released by his office. “Our new proposals will protect U.K. citizens and ensure tech firms will no longer be able to ignore their responsibilities.”

Forbes: Facebook Slammed As 'Morally Bankrupt, Pathological Liars' As Regulation Becomes Real

“There was something of a social media storm in New Zealand on Monday, as Privacy Commissioner John Edwards attacked Facebook for refusing to accept fundamental changes to their platform. In a series of such tweets, since deleted given the "volume of toxic and misinformed traffic they prompted," Edwards said that "Facebook cannot be trusted. They are morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide (Myanmar), facilitate foreign undermining of democratic institutions... [They] allow the live streaming of suicides, rapes, and murders, continue to host and publish the mosque attack video, allow advertisers to target 'Jew haters' and other hateful market segments, and refuse to accept any responsibility for any content or harm. They #DontGiveAZuck." After last month's attack in Christchurch was live streamed and then shared, Facebook claimed that their systems failed to pick up the footage given the lack of relevant training data, but that such systems must and will improve.”